When the current Executive Committee took over in May 2019 in Tanzania, our proposition to you was to use the opportunity provided by the adoption of a new constitution and the name change – from the International Academy of African Business and Development – to the Academy of African Business and Development. Further, we needed to re-position our organization and to start responding more effectively to the expectations of our many stakeholders. To achieve this, we planned to focus on four key areas, namely:
- To continuously remind ourselves and all our stakeholders that AABD is not an “ivory tower” that is reserved exclusively to scholars, but it is an inclusive organization for scholars, business practitioners, consultants, policy makers, and students, whose goal is to contribute to improving quality of lives and disseminate business knowledge and practices about Africa.
- To grow the number of members of AABD to become an important force in business and development in Africa.
- To contribute to, spearhead, and lead public debates on important business and development challenges facing Africa as a whole, or specific African countries and to educate as many people as possible.
- To continuously work and strive for more scientific knowledge about African business and development.
We did not plan for the COVID-19 which began a few months later and has since not only tested our resilience as an international organization, which exclusively relies on the volunteerism of its members, but has also significantly impacted on all our activities.
Due to COVID-19, unfortunately:
- We cancelled our annual conference planned for Edmonton, Canada in 2020. We were expecting more than 200 delegates for this conference and this number of attendees would have made the conference one of our most well-attended conferences in recent years.
- Members did not pay their membership dues in 2020 – our main source of income, although our operating costs have remained the same.
- Some of our executive members faced several challenges, limiting their commitment to AABD.
- We recently conducted our 2021 conference, virtually, with very limited participation.
Despite COVID-19, here are some of our accomplishments since the 20th AABD Conference in Tanzania in 2019:
- We adopted a new logo, which has received very positive reviews.
- We officially established AABD as a not-for-profit organization based in the United States. Thus, AABD members based in the U.S. can now make tax deductible membership dues and other financial donations to AABD.
- We redesigned our website to serve as a more effective communication medium where you can, not only view some presentations at our conferences on our new AABD TV and read about latest research findings on African business and development, but also feature your own scholarly work.
- We formed six new Standing Committees to further involve members in the governance of our organization and to allow us to create and deliver more value to our stakeholders.
- We started our first mentoring program with the University of Dar Es Salaam Business School in December 2020, which pairs Ph.D. students in that institution with some of our senior and well-published members.
- We launched our webinar series entitled “Business According to African Elites” last April, 2020, with Prof. Pat Obi, as the inaugural speaker. The second presentation took place on May 4, 2020 and featured Prof. Pumela Msweli, Dean and CEO of the Graduate School of Business Leadership of UNISA, South Africa.
- We have started sponsoring books, which aim to honor some of our members for their work in advancing the missions of AABD. The first book in the series was duly presented during the closing ceremony of the 2021 virtual conference
- Journal of African Business (JAB) continues to publish high quality articles and is ahead of the schedule. At the same time, JAB’s acceptance rate is steadily decreasing.
As a result, AABD is stronger now than before and has started expanding its services to other publics that were previously ignored. This offers the opportunity to thank some of our members who have been instrumental for the development of and success of some of the new initiatives. I would particularly like to single out Professors Bill Darley, Esther Ishengoma, and Lettice Rutashobya for their leadership role in the development and implementation of the mentoring program at the University of Dar Es Salaam Business School. As well, Professors James Abugre and Ellis Osabutey must be congratulated for their tireless and meticulous efforts in coordinating the publication of our first sponsored book in honor of Professor Bill Darley, one of the founding fathers of AABD, and Professor Richard Hayes for his commitment and support of the webinar series – Business According to African Elites. My thanks also go to Professor Moses Acquaah and his editorial team for the tremendous work they are doing in growing the Journal of African Business.
Worthy of note is that, positions are still vacant in some standing committees. AABD is calling all members to advantage of the space offered by our website to showcase their research and other academic achievements. We believe that the website provides an ideal setting to show the vitality of the AABD community and to enrich the business and development debate on Africa. Members’ enthusiasm for the webinar announcements on social media and attendance at these presentations remains modest.
To conclude, AABD cannot afford to pay permanent employees and exclusively rely on the voluntary service of each of us. I am calling on all members and interested colleagues to contact the Executive Committee to get involved or simply use the AABD communication outlets such as its website, webinar series, and the Journal of African Business to actively contribute to the success of its mission. Even when you cannot attend the webinars, do share information about the webinars with students, business professionals, and colleagues in your network.
On behalf of the Executive Committee, I would like to thank you all for your continuous commitment to and support for AABD.
Simon P. Sigué,